The Valley is without disturbance as perhaps never before, but the people’s trust has been broken.
A little over a year ago, on 12 August 2019, the Indian Express carried an article that I had written on the annulment a week earlier of Articles 370/35A that the Supreme Court had several years earlier ruled as “permanent” features of the Constitution. My opening line said, “Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have just created a Palestine on our northern border.”
I have waited nearly 14 months for that to happen. But the Valley is without disturbance as perhaps never before. Jammu has largely welcomed the move. Ladakh was overjoyed to get Union Territory (UT) status and liberate itself from the stranglehold of Srinagar. A raft of development schemes was announced, as was a raft of youth employment schemes. Panchayat elections were held. With impunity, non-Muslims were put in every office of significance in a Muslim-majority state.
A massive wedge was driven between the electorate and the National Conference, in particular, and the old political establishment of the “three families” in general, to the extent that the Kashmiri-in-the street was mocking Sheikh Abdullah’s family with the cry, “Ab bolo, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’”. Pakistan had been rendered ineffective in fomenting trouble. The India-China border was so tranquil that President Xi Jinping arrived in Mahabalipuram in October 2019 to a welcome warmer than a fresh masala dosa. Was I totally wrong in my assessment?
So wrong that the satraps of the Central government had slowly retracted many of the restrictions imposed on the normal life of the population. Traffic jams returned to the city. Internet worked – at least in the 2G version. Educational institutions reopened. Shops did brisk business. A team of European Union diplomats issued individual certificates of “normalcy” being visible. The authorities were so confident that the people had learned to live without 370/35A that they even released Omar and Farooq Abdullah (but not Mehbooba Mufti, their erstwhile ally) and allowed them to meet other political “leaders” to issue a second Gupkar Declaration on 22 August 2020. So where was the intifada (an uprising), where was the “Palestine on our northern borders”? Apparently in limbo.